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Sniff, Sniff . . . What's He Eating?

John Deiner

Okay, so I'm watching television the other night (I think it was that "American Idol" telethon, so forgive me) and an ad flashes on the screen for Wendy's. I usually grab the remote at the first sign of an advertisement, but this one featured some dude sitting an airplane, with a voice-over bemoaning the fact that he's stuck in the middle seat.

First, I can't do middle seats. I blame my long legs, but it's also because I don't like rubbing elbows with two strangers. One stranger, okay. But two? Ack.

Second, since the ad was for fast food, the guy was eating a greasy, nasty-looking, bacon'd burger. He ends up sitting between two beautiful women AND getting to eat his burger, so he was happy at takeoff. But it occurred to me that this was a clever way for a restaurant chain to tweak the airlines' cheapo no-food-served-unless-you-pony-up-$5-for-a-lousy-sandwich policies.

But it also made me recoil in horror. What must that plane have smelled like? I've been on more than my fair share of aircraft that smell like a food court. I'm a big fan of enchiladas, but not so much when someone is slurping one down next to me on a 737. Yes, I know: We wouldn't have to bring chicken with cashews, pepperoni pizza and fat-laden burgers with onions on board if the airlines still fed us. But I just wish more people would either eat before they got on a plane -- or lugged on board non-toxic items like bagels and peanut butter sandwiches.

(And just for kicks, check out, which features thousands of photos of real airline food. Mmmm, mmm, blech.)

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

By John Deiner |  April 27, 2007; 9:40 AM ET  | Category:  John Deiner , Tales from the Road
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You shouldn't refer to some items like "peanut butter sandwiches" as non-toxic. My daughter has a serious peanut allergy, and being confined on an airplane next to someone eating a peanut butter sandwich could be life-threatening. Certainly not "non-toxic" to her.

Posted by: AL | April 27, 2007 9:55 AM

Excellent point, AL. By non-toxic, I meant the odor, not the ingredients.

Posted by: John Deiner | April 27, 2007 10:06 AM

In the olden days when the airlines served food it didn't always smell that much better. Fish dinners in particular used to make me gag...

Posted by: Karen | April 27, 2007 10:18 AM

Strangest meal ever - A woman next to me requested a cup of warm water and then drank it plain while eating several whole peeled carrots and several slices of american cheese - from her purse.

Posted by: Freq Flier | April 27, 2007 11:41 AM

Peanut butter stinks too. So does any fish, doritoes, fritoes, cantalope, cheeses, close quarters just about any food item could be overpowering. What bothers me more is the sound of other people slurping and chewing...gross!

Posted by: heresathought | April 27, 2007 12:59 PM

Would it have seemed weird if she had a cup of unsweetened herbal tea, a package of baby carrots and another of cheese cubes? C'mon - don't make fun of someone's diet and budget choices.

Posted by: re: Freq Flier | April 27, 2007 1:27 PM

Nice to see that all ya'll are so perfect

people are people, so why should it be, that you and I should get along so awfully

Posted by: overjoyed | April 27, 2007 1:28 PM

Few things at Dulles made me happier than to have a Potbelly sandwich shop open in Terminal C. The long walk past the international gates and lounges keeps it away from big crowds, the price is right and the quality is decent. I am often on flights to Orlando, Tampa or Ft. Lauderdale around 5pm which is too early for dinner, so carrying aboard is the only option, especially since Ted serves nothing. I could wait until I arrive at my hotel, but this may be 8:30 or later and I don't like to eat an hour before going to bed, so what real choice do I have? Plus, the one time that I don't grab a sandwich is the time that we sit on the tarmac for six hours.

Posted by: Lester Burnham | April 27, 2007 2:37 PM

On a recent flight, I sat next to a man who had a wonderful deli sandwich. It looked and smelled great. I was thinking of writing to Miss Manners and asking her to institute a rule that if you are bringing wonderful food aboard, you should bring enough for everybody in the row.

Posted by: Rick | April 27, 2007 3:31 PM

Airline food doesn't smell good either. I'd rather smell a Wendy's bacon-cheeseburger than strong cologne that gives the impression someone bathed in it.

Posted by: Washington | April 27, 2007 4:20 PM

All I can think of is this story:

Back in the late 80's, my sister was getting married. Our family was part of a costuming company and they would custom make the dresses for the family brides. The catch was they were in downtown NYC - we lived in NoVa.

This required a few DC-NYC shuttle flights for my mother and sister. To expedite the process and maximize the time for fittings, the company sent their car service aiport to pick them up and drop them off.

One of the fittings ran late one day, so the driver obliged my mother while she stopped and got a couple of kosher hot dogs from a street vendor (while still in the car - and she got one for the driver :) ).

My mom and sister ate the dogs on the plane...and the people next to them were jealous, not upset. They thought the hot dogs smelled so good compared to whatever it was the airline provided ;)

Posted by: Chasmosaur | April 27, 2007 7:59 PM

This reminds me of riding the high school bus. In the morning, nothing smells worse than Corn Nuts and Cool Ranch Doritos!

Posted by: Erin | May 2, 2007 12:33 PM

I'm fortunate in that I travel through South Philadelphia on the way to the airport. In South Philly there are two excellent purveyors of hoagies, Sarcone's and Chickie's. While fellow passengers may hate me when I unwrap an Old Fashioned Italian Hoagie, I care not a whit. Seeing them struggle to open a bag of mini pretzles or, on rare meal flights, cut into some mystery meat covered with sauce and cheese as I chomp away makes my hoagie taste even better. There glares merely encourage me to noisily savor each bite.

Posted by: Holly Moore | May 2, 2007 7:28 PM

Well, any of that beats the time some idiot sitting behind me decided that the redeye presented a fine opportunity to polish her nails. Fortunately, a flight attendant interceded before anyone passed out from the fumes.

Posted by: jane | May 3, 2007 3:21 PM

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